Greenhouse gas emissions decrease as coal and peat in electricity is phased out

Date released: November 19, 2020

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 4.5 per cent in 2019. This is the largest annual reduction in emissions since 2011.

  • Despite the decrease, Ireland is still not on the pathway required to meet future targets and a climate neutral economy.
  • Energy Industries emissions decreased by 11 per cent with a significant decrease in coal (69 per cent) and peat (8 per cent) used.
  • Agriculture emissions decreased by 3.9 per cent, driven by reduced fertiliser use and lime use on soils.
  • Residential emissions reduced by 7.3 per cent, largely the result of a warmer winter.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector reduced only marginally despite an increase in biofuel use.  

The EPA has today published its provisional greenhouse gas emissions for Ireland for 2019. The figures show a reduction of 4.5 per cent compared to 2018, which is the largest decrease since 2011. Significant emission reductions are recorded for the Energy Industries, Agriculture and Residential sectors. These decreases come despite modest growth in the domestic economy of 1.7 per cent over the year.

However, the figures indicate that Ireland will exceed its 2019 annual EU emissions allocation by 6.98Mt which makes it highly unlikely that Ireland will meet its overall 2020 targets, even taking the impact of Covid 19 on emissions in 2020 into account.

Commenting on the figures Laura Burke, Director General, EPA said:

“This much needed reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is a welcome step in the right direction. The figures show that emissions reductions can be achieved and in 2019 there have been reductions in power generation, agriculture and residential sectors. However, if the 2020s are to be the decade of climate action, this level of emission reductions, at a minimum, will be required annually. Therefore, these reductions need to be built on to achieve continual, substantial, year-on-year emissions reductions. It will take the implementation of effective measures, including all those committed to in the Climate Action Plan, to put Ireland on the pathway to a climate neutral future".

The emission reductions have been driven by a number of factors across the sectors including:

Energy Industries: Emissions in the Energy Industries sector showed a decrease of 11.2 per cent (1.19 Mt CO2eq) in 2019, which is attributable to a 69 per cent decrease in coal and an 8 per cent decrease in peat used in electricity generation. Electricity generated from wind increased by 16.0 per cent in 2019, with renewables accounting for 37.6 per cent of electricity generated. After 2020, a continued increase in renewable generation levels will be required to meet ambitious future greenhouse gas targets.

Agriculture: Agriculture emissions decreased by 3.9 per cent (0.86 Mt CO2eq) in 2019. This was driven by reduced fertiliser use (down 10.1 per cent) and a reduction in the quantity of lime used on soils (down 25.4 per cent), which had both increased substantially the previous year.  Other key drivers of emissions in agriculture, such as the number of dairy cows, continued to rise.

Residential: Emissions in the Residential sector decreased by 7.3 per cent (0.52 Mt of CO2eq) in 2019 with the warmer winter resulting in decreased use of fuels. However, emissions per household have plateaued in recent years which indicates a need to step up energy efficiency retrofit activity to achieve future emission reduction commitments.

Transport: Greenhouse gas emissions from the Transport sector decreased slightly, by 0.3 per cent (0.04 Mt CO2eq), in 2019. An increased demand for transport largely offset more biofuel use which was up 21.9% in 2019. Reducing transport emissions requires a blend of measures such as more cycling and walking as well as new technologies such as electric vehicles and biofuels.

Commenting, Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager, EPA said:

“These 2019 figures illustrate where our economy and emissions were heading before the COVID-19 pandemic. While, 2020 is likely to see a reduction in emissions caused by the impact of the pandemic, this does not negate the need for long term and sustained action. Focusing on climate action as part of a ‘green’ recovery offers the opportunity to respond to climate change while rebuilding our economy and generating new jobs.”

Full detail on the Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory 1990 to 2019 is available on the EPA website and the EPA Greenhouse Gas web resource is also available online

Tables and Notes

An overview of changes in emissions since the previous year is presented in Table 1 and distance to EU targets in Table 2.

More trend figures, tables and background information available online.

Table 1. Provisional greenhouse gas emissions for 2018 and 2019 for Ireland*

Mt CO2 eq20182019% Change
Agriculture   22.01  21.15  -3.9%
Transport   12.23   12.19  -0.3%
Energy Industries   10.63  9.45  -11.2%
Residential   7.04  6.53  -7.3%
Manufacturing Combustion   4.69   4.59  -2.0%
Industrial Processes   2.30   2.26   -1.5%
F-Gases   1.16  1.08   -7.4%
Commercial Services   0.88   0.89  1.8%
Public Services   0.88  0.89  1.2%
Waste   0.89  0.89  -0.8%
Total   62.70   59.90  -4.5%


* Final figures will be submitted to the EU and UN in March and April 2021 in line with the agreed reporting timetable.


Table 2. Compliance with EU Effort Sharing Decision Targets 2013-2020

  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020  
 A Total greenhouse gas emissions without LULUCF1   57,903   57,626  59,878    61,546  60,744   60,912   59,897   0 kt CO2eq
 B NF3 emissions  1  1  1  1  1  1  0 kt CO2eq 
 C Total greenhouse gas emissions without LULUCF and without NF3 emissions  57,902  57,625  59,877  61,545  60,742  60,911  59,896  0  kt CO2eq
 D Total verified emissions from stationary installations under Directive 2003/87/EC2  15,686   15,953  16,830  17,737 16,896   15,515  14,171  0  kt CO2eq
 E CO2 emissions from 1.A.3.a. domestic aviation   10  9  10  10  17  17 17   0  kt CO2eq
 F Total ESD emissions (= C-D-E)  42,207   41,663  43,037  43,798  43,829  45,379   45,707  0  kt CO2eq
 G  EU ESD Targets  46,892   45,761  44,630 43,499   40,885  39,807   38,729  37,651  kt CO2eq
   Distance to target (= F-G)  -4,685  -4,098  -1,593  299  2,944  5,571  6,978    kt CO2eq

Note: Shaded cells show data that has been reviewed, and compliance agreed, by the European Commission under Article 19 of the MMR No. 525/2013



Units: 1 Mt = 1,000 kilotonnes

CO2 Equivalent: greenhouse gases other than CO2 (i.e. methane, nitrous oxide and so-called F-gases) may be converted to CO2 equivalent using their global warming potentials. 

F-gases: These gases comprise HFCs (Hydroflurocarbons), PFCs (Perfluorcarbons), SF6 (Sulphur Hexafluoride) and NF3 (Nitrogen Trifluoride).  They are much more potent than the naturally occurring greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide).

Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Sectors:  include the following ten sectors for analysis;

  1. Energy Industries (electricity generation, waste to energy incineration, oil refining, briquetting manufacture and fugitive emissions)
  2. Residential (combustion for domestic space and hot water heating)
  3. Manufacturing Combustion (combustion for Manufacturing industries in ETS and non-ETS)
  4. Commercial Services (combustion for Commercial Services space and hot water heating)
  5. Public Services (combustion for Public services space and hot water heating)
  6. Transport (combustion of fuel used in road, rail, navigation, domestic aviation and pipeline gas transport)
  7. Industrial Processes (process emissions from mineral, chemical, metal industries, non-energy products and solvents)
  8. F-Gases (gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and semiconductor manufacture)
  9. Agriculture (emissions from fertiliser application, ruminant digestion, manure management, agricultural soils and fuel used in agriculture/forestry/fishing)
  10. Waste (emissions from solid waste disposal on land, solid waste treatment (composting), wastewater treatment, waste incineration and open burning of waste).